At the recent Geneva motor show a revised Rapid Spaceback was shown, making our long-term test car obsolete. Well thatís what Skoda would have you believe, but in reality, the changes arenít exactly far-reaching. However, after more than nine months with our Spaceback, the time came for it to go back, not least of all because a refreshed Octavia is about to hit showrooms and from the next issue of Diesel Car weíll be running one of these instead.
Our Spaceback arrived last summer, and we chose the 1.4-litre TDI engine thatís purpose is to be a cheaper alternative to the 1.6-litre unit that has been available since the model made its debut in late 2013. It was this three-cylinder powerplant that would prove to be our biggest bugbear, but more of that later. Fitting between the Fabia and Octavia, the Rapid Spaceback is a smart-looking car with its chiselled edges and lustrous blue paint with black roof. To my eyes, itís a good-looking small hatch, but I was surprised just how many people commented on its apparent desirability, based solely on its exterior shape and colour. It looks like a high-quality product.
Itís a very practical design too; I recently had to carry three bikes in it and although one of them was a BMX, the other two road bikes went in with just one of them having its front wheel removed. It was also called upon to carry all manner of other items during its time with us, from logs to furniture ñ and it never proved too small to cope.
It wasnít just good at carrying stuff though; it efficiently transported people too. It took five adults around Wales with no complaints about poor seat comfort or a lack of head or leg room. The glass roof helped to reinforce the feeling of cabin space and as a posh budget car, the Skoda came packed with standard equipment, even if it didnít feel like a premium model because of some cheap cabin materials or the sound when the doors were shut. The touchscreen infotainment system was everything youíd expect of a VW Group arrangement, while the switchgear worked brilliantly and the dashboard was a model of clarity. The headlights were woeful, but the carís practicality meant it despatched everything thrown at it without murmur.
What held the car back was its 1.4-litre engine, but not because of a lack of performance. While this diminutive TDI powerplant was surprisingly zesty, it was the way it went about delivering its 89 horses that disappointed. Even when warm it was rattly; when cold it bordered on being anti-social when fired up early in the morning. Once at a cruise, the three-cylinder engine quietened down and with reasonably muted wind and road noise the Skoda made a decent long-distance companion ñ if not quite the perfect one. Thatís because the biggest issue with the car was the poor fuel economy. Covering 15,000 miles in nine months we averaged just under 50mpg, when the official figure is 78.5mpg. Weíre used to failing to achieve official fuel consumption figures but I always assume a non-hybrid car will be 20 per cent down ñ not 36 per cent.
The thing is, Skoda has the perfect solution selling alongside our car; the 1.6 TDI that carries a £780 premium. Currently rated at 99g/km compared with the 101g/km
of the 1.4 TDI unit ñ Skoda has tweaked the CO2 emissions of its cars since we took delivery of our car ñ the 1.6 is muscular, quiet, smooth and likely to prove usefully more frugal in the real world; itís also officially rated at 74.3mpg. But disregarding the fiscal arguments, the four-cylinder powerplant is simply far nicer to use than the three-pot and the extra cash is well worth paying.
In fact, Iíd go so far as to say that the fitment of the smaller engine left me with a generally negative view of the Spaceback, even though it was largely good news. Had our test car come with the 1.6 TDI unit instead, Iíd probably have been effusive about it. Well, maybe not. But you get the point.
Date arrived 18th July 2016
Fuel economy 67.3/83.1/78.5mpg 49.8mpg (on test)
We covered more than 15,000 miles in our Spaceback and the Bridgestone Potenza tyres wore well. The fronts were less than half worn; the rears were still like new.
Although our top-of-the-range Spaceback had lots of standard kit such as a glass roof and navigation, there were no automatic lights or wipers.